The Toronto Blue Jays’ 2013 season was abysmal. For a team that had World Series aspirations, finishing the season 14 games under .500 is simply embarrassing. What’s even more concerning than going from pre-season favourites to 17.5 games out of the nearest playoff spot is the fact that it appears nothing is going to change heading into the 2014 season. None of the 111 errors (the fifth most in the league) committed last season or the numerous coaching mistakes are as unforgivable as not hitting the reset button on this team.
Simply put, John Gibbons must be fired. It’s unfathomable how this coach has been able to hold onto his job for this long. He steered the Titanic right into the iceberg, and for some reason, the Jays are going to let him captain the ship for another year. It’s evident through Toronto’s league-leading 12 ejections that he did not have control over the team. Unfortunately, this was foreseeable, as Gibbons ended his last coaching stint in Toronto without the respect of key veterans.
Rather than starting another season with John Gibbons at the helm, the Jays should hire Dominican-born and former Cleveland Indians’ manager Manny Acta to lead the team into 2014. Toronto currently has 11 Latino players on their roster, including nine from the Dominican Republic. The hiring of Acta, who has big-league experience and has coached Dominican teams along with numerous Latino players, would be in the Jays’ best interest.
The team’s issues do not end with Gibbons, however; they need an extreme makeover across the board and in the clubhouse. To do this, the Blue Jays need to model this off-season after that of the 2012 Boston Red Sox. Boston was supposed to be a playoff team under new manager Bobby Valentine but the team underachieved, similar to the 2013 Blue Jays. However, the Red Sox identified their strengths and weaknesses, and addressed them through bold trades, free-agent signings, and brought in a new manager (former Blue Jays manager John Farrell) at the end of the season.
The Jays need to do the same thing. Offensive and defensive wins above replaced (WAR), a statistic that shows the number of wins a player brings to his team, reveals that Edwin Encarnación and Colby Rasmus are the Jays’ most valuable players. Essentially, Toronto needs to rebuild around these two rising stars. The Jays also have to get rid of veterans Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, J.P. Arencibia, and R.A. Dickey in order to sign free agent catcher Brian McCann and Canadian first-baseman Justin Morneau. These moves will also open up playing opportunities for the surplus of outfield prospects the team has waiting in the wings.
Fortunately, there is hope for the 2014 Jays. The Red Sox were able to fire on all cylinders as they went from the bottom in the division (69-93) in 2012 to the top of the league (97-65) in 2013. The Jays just need to hit the reset button and build a team that can contend for the 2014 World Series.
— Aaron Rose